5 Productivity Tips from Waffle House

This morning, I had breakfast with a friend at a local Waffle House restaurant.  The Waffle House is a chain of small restaurants that do a relatively high volume of business.  The stores are open 24/7 and generally have low- or minimum-wage employees. It’s amazing the productivity tips you can find if you just watch.

Waffle House Logo

The short-order chef who was working at the Waffle House this morning was hustling.  He had three or four orders going at any one time and was able to keep track of each order.  He kept track of all the items on the grills, waffle irons, and toasters at the same time.  It was amazing to watch.

While watching, I jotted down five productivity tips. 

  1. Know where your stuff is
    That guy knew exactly where every tool, ingredient, and item was.  When he finished spreading butter on the bread, he was able to throw the knife back into the container where it was kept.I’m getting better at this, but so often, I find myself searching for the right tool or resource for whatever I’m doing at the moment. When looking, it’s easy to get distracted from the big picture.
  2. Know your customers
    When certain customers walked in, he was able to know exactly what they wanted and begin preparing… even before the customer placed the order!This is something I need to work on: being able to expect what other people want or need and having it ready.  Being proactive is always a good idea.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice
    Just like anything you want to be good at, practice makes perfect.  Those short-order chefs don’t get to be as good as he was without LOTS of practice! Last year, I read a great article over at Carlos Whittaker’s blog, ragamuffinsoul.com about what it was like to be a Waffle House cook.
  4. Focus and Stay Productive
    When the chef wasn’t at the stove or working the waffle irons, he kept busy.  He was cooking, cleaning or restocking items.  He never wasted a minute.

    It’s so easy to become sidetracked when working.  Facebook. Twitter. Hootsuite. Feedly. They’ll all steal your time and focus.  I’ve been working on developing a list each day and sticking to it.  If I get distracted, I forgive myself.  And then back to work.

  5. Take a Break
    The chef also knew when to take a break.  After cleaning the cooking area and re-stocking, he took a few minutes and sat down.

    After finishing a task, I give myself a 5-10 minute break.  It allows me to relax, rest my brain, and get ready to focus on the next task.

Let me know what you think!